Researching the politics of development



Politics, political settlements and social change in post-colonial Rwanda

Working paper 24

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Frederick Golooba-Mutebi
Until 1994 Rwanda’s post-colonial history was marked by episodes of political violence, attempted wars, and wars of different durations. Feeding the violence was the absence of an elite consensus about how best to take Rwanda forward after colonial rule ended, the rules for doing so, and the roles to be played by the holders and losers of power. This paper explores key aspects of Rwanda’s political evolution from independence to-date. The critical stages are the events popularly known as the 1959 social revolution that preceded independence in 1962; the period from 1962 to the overthrow of Kayibanda’s First Republic in 1973; from the Habyarimana-led military coup to 1994; and the Rwanda Patriotic Front -led post-genocide period.
The paper examines the different political coalitions that have ruled the country since independence, their impact on political stability and their role in catalysing or influencing the cycles of turmoil with which it is associated. In the case of the current coalition, this paper also provides a glimpse into the efforts they have made to promote the wellbeing of ordinary Rwandans. It first charts the historical origins and the current state of drivers of instability and elite fragmentation. It then identifies the nature of interactions between drivers of instability and political settlements over time, and their impact on governance and the pursuit of development.